50 A SEARCH IN SECRET EGYPT
—it came from the interior just a little way beyond the farthest point to which they had penetrated.
Destiny had taken a hand in the game. Thereafter they worked with zest and zeal and soon broke through into the original entrance passage. The Great Pyramid had been reopened.
It was, then, easy enough to ascend this passage and find the hidden door: a door so cleverly concealed that it could never have been discovered from the outside. After so many centuries the secret door was no longer in working order; it had got irretrievably stuck. That door has disappeared to-day, lost in the general pillage which took place after the earthquake at Cairo. It was just such a door as the ancient Egyptians would have fixed at the opening to the most mysterious building they had erected. It was really a movable stone flap, self-replacing, and finished externally so as perfectly to resemble the surrounding casing stones; it fitted tightly into the opening and was itself a solid block of stone. When closed it could not be detected apart from the rest of the outer surface, When opened it wheeled round on its own length, revealing a cavity. It was finely balanced and worked on a pivot, the centre of gravity being placed under this pivot, while compensating weights were fitted to counteract its heavy weight. It could not be opened except with a strong push at one end followed by a powerful pull at the other; powerful enough to lift it outwards from the face and then up. This allowed the visitor to squirm his way, crawling on all fours, into the passage behind. The turning flap of stone then swung backwards on its pivots and completely concealed the entrance again.
Even that was not all, for a heavy wooden locked door then barred his onward way. And after this further obstruction, ten more doors had to be passed before he succeeded in reaching the King's Chamber. Most of these were wooden, while one was another movable secret stone flap. But all have since utterly disappeared.
Once inside the original entrance passage, Caliph Al Mamoun's men found that their labour was by no means over. They discovered that the passage came to a dead end before a huge block of granite. It did not seem likely that the opening and passage had been constructed merely to terminate in a cul-de-sac; therefore, they tried to cut their way through this formidable